Editor's note: "Community Champions" is a new weekly feature in which area residents who are advocates for the community are profiled. To recommend someone for consideration, send an email with the subject line 'Community Champions' to email@example.com. Please include contact information about the person and their background. Read previously published stories on columbustelegram.com.
Robert "Bob" Hausmann was an avid Scott Frost fan long before it was considered cool to “feel the Frost” in Nebraska.
Back in the 1990s, Hausmann had heard about and seen a young Scott Frost quarterbacking for Wood River High School. Being a former high school and college quarterback himself, Hausmann said he had a feeling Frost could be a big deal for his Nebraska Cornhuskers. So when Frost initially committed to Stanford, he was disappointed.
“I couldn’t believe it,” recalled Hausmann, North Park Elementary School’s principal.
Frost ended up transferring to Nebraska and helped lead the Huskers to a pair of National Championships, so it worked out. That’s part of the reason Hausmann has a personal drawing he made back in 1997 of Frost proudly on display in his office.
“I have had several different Huskers hanging on my wall over the years, and Frost being my all-time favorite Husker, he has been up there several times since 1997,” Hausmann said. “One of my hobbies, since I was a little kid, has been drawing sports figures. Each year I drew and framed one of the top Huskers of that season, just to remember that season by. I then hung them either in my office or classroom at school, or one of my kids’ rooms, or in the garage … The kids always find it interesting to see that I can draw, so I have had some of my Husker drawings hanging in my office as a conversation piece for the kids I work with.”
He also has an old-school “Avengers” lunch box and other tokens from his childhood in his office. The drawing, lunch pail and other items are all reminders of where he came from and of growing up in Columbus and attending North Park as a student. Like Frost, he left his home community for a while and returned again to find much success.
“I believe the time this job opened that this was a calling for me to come and it just feels like my home. The town is, of course, but the school, too. This is where I know I was meant to be, so it just feels right, it feels like home,” said Hausmann, who will finish his 15th year as North Park’s principal this spring. “I literally feel like I’m leaving my home where I sleep and eat at and come to my second home and go back and forth between my two homes. This just does not feel like a job.”
Hausmann is also a husband, father of two daughters and one son, as well as an involved community member. Columbus is undoubtedly where he’ll tell anyone he belongs, but he even admittedly never imagined he would be the person in charge of the same building where he, in essence, grew up.
GROWING UP IN COLUMBUS
The son of a U.S. Air Force father, Hausmann was born in San Antonio, Texas. Hausmann and his two siblings moved around the world during the Vietnam War, but just before he was old enough to go to school, the war ended and his parents wanted to put down roots when his father retired. So they settled on his mother’s hometown, Columbus, where they also had family and friends nearby.
He initially attended the now-defunct Field Elementary, but soon found himself at North Park near the first home his dad had built in the neighborhood.
“I have great memories. I had really great memories all the way through. It’s probably why I got into education - I had such fond memories of school,” Hausmann said, noting he knew how strong his passion was his senior year of high school when he spent two class periods helping elementary-aged students.
He continued to enjoy school as he got older and wound up becoming the Discoverers’ starting quarterback for two seasons during high school. He had aspirations of a professional football career, even playing in college, but in the back of his mind, knew education was truly his passion.
FINDING HIS CALLING
Hausmann spent one season as quarterback for Tarkio College in Missouri before transferring to Kearney State College (now the University of Nebraska at Kearney). He played football in Kearney, too, but continued to pursue his major in elementary education. Two knee surgeries during his playing days squashed his hopes of a pro football career.
“I just find elementary kids funny for one,” he said. “And they need adults in their lives, so it just seemed right. There is something really comfortable, something meant to be. I was meant to work with little kids.”
It’s also how he met his now wife, Teresa. The two were partnered together in their non-rhythmic activity children pre-elementary grade course and had never officially met. Teresa said she had a pre-conceived notion as to who her partner would be based on his football background, but ended up being pleasantly surprised.
“We met at the library a couple of times a week. I didn’t even know him – I was just hoping to God he would show up and help me do the assignment,” she said. “But then we got together and I thought he was really nice.”
The two worked hard on their assignment together, though Teresa still has bragging rights – technically. Their professor gave her an A-plus and him just an A.
“He was not happy. We turned in the same exact thing,” she laughed. “I always remind him I got the A-plus.”
ON THE MOVE
Hausmann began looking for jobs during the second semester of his senior year, hoping for an opportunity to teach at an elementary school and coach at any level. Being a multi-sport athlete, the latter was important to him. Fortunately, Neligh-Oakdale Public Schools made that happen.
“I had the opportunity to be an elementary teacher, coach football and be a basketball coach,” said Hausmann, who was there from 1993-1998.
He and Teresa, now his wife, then had a chance to relocate to Columbus in the late ’90s.
“Columbus was always something we were hoping for,” he said, noting both of them being able to work in a bigger district where the jobs were more stable was extremely appealing.
Hausmann worked for the next few years as a sixth-grade social studies teacher at the middle school, while also helping coach Discoverer football with his former coaches, serving as the middle school’s head track coach and an assistant coach for the high school girls basketball squad. Meanwhile, Teresa enjoyed being an educator at North Park.
During that time, Hausmann earned his master’s in elementary education from Wayne State College as he had aspirations to become a school principal. He was a couple of weeks away in the late 1990s from interviewing for the principal job at West Park that had opened up and decided to take on some interviews for similar positions in other districts for practice. But, he said, something odd happened.
“I had never been through an interview, so I thought the practice would be good,” he recalled. “I got a couple of interviews but what I wasn’t planning on was getting the job in Geneva.”
The Hausmanns weighed their options, and because the CPS job wasn’t guaranteed, they decide to make the move.
“I had to take a leap of faith because I got a principal opportunity,” Hausmann said.
Geneva was good to the Hausmann family. He said they loved their jobs and were well-established in the community. Their two daughters, Molly and Emie, had friends and loved their town. But in 2004, Hausmann said some CPS principals reached out to see if he had interest in the recently vacated North Park principal position. They encouraged him to consider applying for it.
“We loved it there. I don’t think I would have done it then if it was not at North Park,” Hausmann said. “It was just more like a calling. It was just too strange not to pursue.”
He started at North Park in the fall of 2004 and hasn’t looked back. Walking through the halls one afternoon, Hausmann greeted each kid by name without hesitation. He was proud as he discussed his students’ efforts in reading, among other things. He’s very much of the mindset to break the stereotypes associated with principals, like them only being hard-nosed and unpleasant figures.
“I know the kids respect me but I do my best so that they are not afraid of me because I believe they will do more for you if they like you and love you than they would if they hate you,” he said. “That applies to people who work for you as well.”
Columbus Public Schools Superintendent Troy Loeffelholz said Hausmann is a tremendous asset to CPS. He said it’s great to have people part of the team who went through the district themselves as students, praising Hausmann’s leadership.
“I know Bob is very committed to the Columbus Public School system. He is always looking out for the best interest of his school and school system. He is very protective of its culture, what it means to be a Discoverer, and wearing his maroon proudly,” he said.
“… He cares deeply for his students and staff. Everyone at North Park knows that and will work hard for him. North Park's demographics have shifted over the years, but Bob continues to keep the North Park culture the same as it was when he was a student. Bob wants all students to have and receive the same type of caring environment he had as a student there.”
ABOVE AND BEYOND
Although he’s known as North Park’s principal, Hausmann takes pride in the community. He often serves as a counselor for a J.C. camp, a Catholic youth camp. He has helped out with various nonprofit efforts through the years, and currently is serving on the Columbus Public Library’s Board of Directors. He said he took on the latter role in hopes to help with efforts to get a new library built in the coming years.
“I just feel like wherever you live that’s what you should do,” he said.
But, above all, family is what is most important. He said he’s extremely proud of their three children: Molly Kate, 24; Emie, 23; and 15-year-old son, Ernest. The Hausmanns adopted Ernest in 2008 from Uganda after hearing his story from Ernest’s uncle, Peter Kibalya, who lived in Uganda. As Teresa had been a foreign-exchange student in South Africa, a mutual friend thought the Hausmanns and Kibalya would have something in common and introduced them.
Ernest was only 2-and-a-half-years-old when they first heard his story. The little boy lived in a country run by then-Ugandan President Idi Amin, known for his ruthless regime in which an estimated 300,000 civilians were massacred, according to history.com. Ernest’s relatives were among the many affected.
“It literally took us two-and-a-half-years to navigate through it all,” he said, noting no adoptions from Uganda to the U.S. had been done at that time. “We were fighting an uphill battle. We were told ‘no’ many, many times, but we just wouldn’t give up. We felt like he was our son and we needed to go get him. We didn’t think we would have been introduced to him at that moment if we weren’t meant to.”
Ernest came to the U.S. in 2008 at age 5 and has been a great addition to the family, he stressed.
Hausmann’s drive to help others is what makes him special, Teresa said.
“He’s probably the kindest human I know,” she said. “He truly has a service heart. He serves his teachers, students and his family. He always puts his family’s needs before himself. He truly practices what he preaches – our children are very fortunate he’s their dad and I’m fortunate he’s my husband.”
As for the man himself, Hausmann isn’t one to talk about what he does to help others or what he has accomplished over the years. He likes talking about his family, noting how his oldest daughter was recently married and mentioning her husband, Anthony Fenner.
If there’s one thing he’ll brag about it’s that he was a Frost fan long before most Husker fans. He’s got the drawing and a letter to the editor he wrote praising the famed former Husker QB and now the head coach on his office wall to prove it.
“I had taken it down and stored it in recent years, but once he was named head coach I pulled it back out,” he said, with a smile. “I had also saved the magazine of my letter to the editor published in Nebraska Sports Magazine (around) 1995 and pulled that out once Frost was named head coach and hung those two things together in my office. I’m happy he’s back.”
Matt Lindberg is the managing editor of The Columbus Telegram. Reach him via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.